John Tavares scored twice in the opening period, while Travis Hamonic and Matt Moulson tallied three assists apiece to lead the New York Islanders to a 6-4 victory over the Nashville Predators in an exhibition game Friday at Nassau Coliseum.
“We’ve had some chances in the previous games but (tonight) we brought the structure and the framework that we talk about all the time,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “There’s a certain way this team has to play and tonight, I don’t know exactly how many shots our D generated from the point, but we did some good things.”
Both of Tavares’ first period goals gave the Islanders the lead. In the second minute of play, Hamonic stepped into a slap shot from the top of the zone and the puck deflected off Tavares’ stick and over Pekka Rinne to make the score 1-0.
Tied at 1-1 later in the period, Hamonic set up the Islanders captain again with a shot from the point. The rebound kicked out to the right side and Tavares converted an easy chance at 13:38.
“I think we are right about there, and [the regular season] starts in a week,” Tavares said. “I think guys are excited and ready to get going. We only had five days to get ready last year, so I think this year is going to be a lot better for us.”
The home team added to its lead on a power play opportunity later in the first. Moulson snuck a pass across the slot to Lubomir Visnovsky, who powered a shot into the open net.
Colin McDonald’s tally early in the second period made the score 4-1 in favor of the home team. Nelson circled to the top of the zone and found McDonald at the bottom of the right circle at the 4:45 mark. Nelson earned another assist midway through the period when he blasted a shot through traffic, off Matt Donovan and into the net.
Carter Hutton took over in net for Nashville for the third period. Rinne finished the night with 19 saves on 24 shots, while Hutton went on to stop 8-of-9.
The Islanders extended their lead again in the third on a Josh Bailey deflection. Hamonic earned his third assist by way of a shot from the point, as the puck hit Bailey’s stick and went over Hutton. Following the game, Hamonic said getting pucks on net from anywhere has to be part of the Islanders game plan every night.
“You’ve got to throw pucks on net and it’s nice to be rewarded,” Hamonic. “Johnny did a great job on the first two. On the first one, I shot it and Johnny made the nice tip. On the second one, Johnny banged home the rebound and on the third, Bailes had a really nice tip as well.”
Leading 6-1, the Islanders surrendered three goals over the final nine minutes. Simon Moser scored on a rebound opportunity at 11:18 of the third. Craig Smith, who also lit the lamp in the opening frame, netted one with less than three minutes to play, and Roman Josi tacked one on to the total with a hard shot from the left point at 18:47.
Nabokov said that the Islanders relaxed too much down the stretch and can use the final few minutes of Friday’s game as a learning experience.
“We played well for the most part tonight,” Nabokov said. “In a game like this I think it’s natural to kind of relax and see the other team push hard. Their team didn’t give up. We talked in the locker room about having better habits in games like this.”
The Islanders next opponent will be the Ottawa Senators, as the teams will take part in split-squad games Sunday, Sept. 29 in Ottawa and Barrie, Ontario.
New York Islanders
60 Kevin Poulin